Former Dodge Sheriff Sentenced to Prison in Vote-Buying Scandal

6:37 PM, Jun 28, 2010   |    comments
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  • Lawton Douglas
  • Olin Gibson
    

Former Dodge Sheriff Lawton Douglas will spend 18 months in federal prison in a vote-buying scandal. He'll also pay a $2,000 fine.

 

A supporter, Former Dodge Deputy Olin Gibson, will spend four months in prison and pay a $1,000 fine.

 

Both men were also sentenced to three years' probation. The pair were sentenced Monday morning at the federal courtroom in Dublin.

Douglas and Gibson pleaded guilty in March.

 

Douglas admitted to conspiracy to commit election fraud when he was elected in 2004, and Gibson pleaded guilty to buying votes.

A federal indictment last year accused them of paying off voters in a July 2004 primary election and a runoff the next month with cash, alcohol, and drugs.

 Douglas served one term and was defeated for re-election in 2008.

Before giving the sentences, U.S. District Judge Dudley Bowen said that voter fraud and vote purchase is a practice that has prevailed in this district.

"This type of conduct, form of political action, is not tolerated, cannot be tolerated and will not be tolerated in this district," said Bowen.

The judge said it's important the court be willing to maintain by example what will happen for those inclined to commit the same conduct.

 

Asst. U.S. Attorney Brian Tanner said the case involved hundreds of votes in an election that was decided by 400 votes.

"This is an incredibly serious offense," Tanner said.

Both Douglas and Gibson apologized for their actions.  Douglas' attorney Paul Kish told the court that Douglas was an ambitious young man, from a family that failed at elected offices. 

"His great granddad lost the Sheriff's race, his granddad lost the Sheriff's race," said Kish. "Douglas lost his first attempt at the Sheriff's race."

He said Douglas admits he made horrible choices and let everyone down, including voters.   

Douglas' wife Mariella fought back tears during her statement in court.  She explained to Bowen how Douglas has changed since 2004.  At that time she described him as, "young, selfish man, driven by goals."

Six years later, she says he is no longer driven by goals but by their family's needs.  She says he's working as a truck driver and spoke about their financial hardships since he lost the 2008 election.  The kindergarten teacher says they have two kids together under three years old. 

"Whatever you give him," she pleaded the judge, "you're giving me... I beg you to find it in your heart to have mercy on him."

Kish said Douglas has three kids from a previous marriage.

Gibson's attorney Ashley McLaughlin says Gibson was the first person in his family to get a GED.  The defense attorney said Gibson's dream job was law enforcement.   

He (Gibson) hates he messed up this opportunity, said McLaughlin.  The prospect of never being in law enforcement again is what troubles him the most.

McLaughlin said Gibson committed the crime largely because of his friendship with Douglas and to keep his job. 

"But his arm wasn't twisted," said McLaughlin.  "He admits his role."

Gibson told the judge he has several children, including some he's adopted.  He said he's taking responsibility for his actions.

Judge Bowen commended Douglas and Gibson for their straight-forward apologies.

Outside the courtroom, Gibson said the sentence was fair, but said the charges had affected his friendship with Douglas. He said he doesn't plan to continue being friends with Douglas but would not explain further. 

Douglas declined comment.

"I'm just glad it's over, glad it's over," said Deborah Seay, Douglas' mother.

She says she thought the judge's decision was fair and hopes the community will forgive the man who once wore the badge of honor.

"I hope Dodge County can get over it and move on, we have no hard feelings toward anyone," said Seay.

 

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